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Super Tuesday challenges for Mitt, Newt, Rick and Ron

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Newt Gingrich is making a long shot bet he can revive his candidacy next Tuesday after Mitt Romney's Michigan and Arizona victories, which once again made him the solid front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination.

The race for the GOP presidential nomination jumps to Super Tuesday on March 6, with 10 states holding caucus or primary votes.

Gingrich and Ron Paul sat out Arizona, where Mitt Romney won all 29 delegates, and Michigan, which he clinched over Rick Santorum.

To remember about Super Tuesday: In the beginning, middle and end of the march to the nomination what counts is accumulating 1,144 delegates.

Nine of the SuperTuesday states will award delegates proportionally, that is, by winner of each congressional district--just as Michigan will do with its 30 pledged delegates.

The challenges ahead:

maintaining viability

Romney had to put up with days of critical commentary about how he was struggling in Michigan, the state where he was raised. With a Georgia primary on Tuesday, Gingrich now has to deal with similar home state expectations.

Gingrich "has to win in his own home state or he can't stay in," said analyst Frank Luntz. At stake for Gingrich, said Luntz, is to prove he is "nationally viable" if he can't clinch Georgia.

"Of course it's a comeback strategy," Gingrich told FOX News Bill O'Reilly.

Ohio is the biggest Tuesday prize, with 63 delegates, and Gingrich is going to run a 30-minute speech on energy independence -- and his pledge to bring down the price of gas to $2.50 a gallon -- in various Ohio markets from Thursday to Monday.

Gingrich has remained in play in part because of the backing of a SuperPac named Winning Our Future and the group will continue to throw Gingrich a lifeline in most of the SuperTuesday states by running anti-Romney ads.

remaining in play

Paul's window for actually winning the GOP nomination at the Tampa convention has closed unless lightening strikes -- a few times. He is the only one who has not won even one state.

finding the right message

Santorum veered to hot button social issues in recent days, which exit polls showed helped him win the religious, Tea Party and anti-abortion votes, a coalition that may not be strong enough to shut down Romney.

The biggest problems for Santorum are that there are no more debates where he can have a game-changing play and he may not have the resources to combat what is expected to be a torrent of anti-Santorum shots coming out of the Romney camp.

running to the center

Romney has to continue to win delegates without making himself a weak nominee by running to the far right in order to beat Santorum. The November battle to beat President Barack Obama will center on key battleground states where the independent vote will be crucial.

Romney does best when he stays on his course. In rare session with his traveling press corps on Tuesday, he made a joke at his own expense, referring to his string of recent gaffes:

Said Romney, "I'm very pleased with the campaign, its organization. The candidate sometimes makes some mistakes and so I'm trying to do better and work harder and make sure that we get our message across."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 28, 2012 11:39 PM.

Romney on Michigan win: "Pundits and the pollsters" got it wrong. Text was the previous entry in this blog.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, Feb. 29, 2012. Armed Forces dinner is the next entry in this blog.

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